This poor blog has been sorely neglected this month.

We've been enjoying finally having both of our kids home this year.  For the past two Christmases we've been waiting for a referral.  (The first Christmas believing that it could happen quickly and the second Christmas wondering if it would ever happen.)

And River has been sick.  A lot of people have been sick lately, but whatever River has is dragging on.  He's not eating.  He spends all day watching Curious George and drinking water.  He just isn't himself.  He's losing weight.  We've already been to the doctor twice and we're going again after Christmas.  We'd appreciate prayers that he would just get better.

Willow is doing great.  She's walking and she's into everything.  Especially the Christmas tree.  She learned how to say "No," because she hears it 50 times a day when she rips ornaments off the tree.  She's saying more words every day.  She's more snuggly than ever before.  She's sleeping through the night (thank you JESUS!) and as long as she gets to sleep on her schedule and her teeth aren't hurting... she is incredibly happy and easy-going.  We've had so much fun with her this month.

When we came home with her and the adoption "journey" was finally over, we kind of wondered what we would do next.  Things had been exciting for a long time- although not necessarily a good kind of exciting for a while- but we just wondered what we'd do next.  

It seems like every week a new opportunity is presenting itself.  Right now, I don't know how we're going to have the time or money to do all of the things that we could do in 2013.   

There is a small group of mommies trying to bring the Welcoming Angels program to Indiana.  We'd love to do this and bring an older child from Ethiopia to live in our home for four weeks.   The idea is to expose the child to a loving family and expose your family, friends and church to older child adoption.  A win-win.  The children would be in Indiana from the end of May to the end of June.  The children would be adoptable, and if they aren't adopted by someone they meet while they're here they go onto the waiting child list with AWAA.  So they would find a family one way or another.  

There is an opportunity to go to Belize in August with our church.  We would be able to work in a new orphanage there. 

We are in touch with a contact in Ethiopia right now who is helping us to learn more about the government orphanage and real ways that we can help there.  They are on the verge of losing the only nurse they have and we'd like to make sure they can keep her.  And we're looking into other big-impact, long-term ways that we can improve the conditions for the children who are stuck there.  I don't know where we are headed, but I know this will be a big focus for us next year.

And of course... we're already thinking ahead to Wade baby #3.  Where will he or she come from?  And when?  River says that he wants two more babies- a brother and a sister.  And he wants them to come from my belly.  He and I are not on the same page about this.  

I wonder a year from now, looking back on this, how these things will have worked out?  

Right now, we're focusing on the final days of the I Drive Ethiopia campaign for our friend David.  Over $6,000 has been raised to help him to purchase a van.  In the US $6,000 would buy a van... but unfortunately vehicles are much more expensive in Ethiopia (I believe vehicle tax is 200%).  We're hoping to raise $15,000 to buy a 20-year-old van, so that David can start his own business.  You can help by contributing and/or sharing the campaign on Facebook or Twitter.  See the campaign here:  I Drive Ethiopia.

So that is probably it until after Christmas.  We have presents to wrap, movies to watch, Christmas lights to drive past and finally a little bit of snow to play in. 

Merry Christmas! 
This year we're trying to do as much of our Christmas shopping as we can locally and with organizations that support causes we care about.  Honestly, it's a little harder to do than it should be.  

Through my searches I've found a few good sites I'd like to recommend for those of you out there who might be trying to do the same.  

But first of all, let me toot my own horn.  

Look at this awesome picture I took!  At least I think I remember taking it, I guess it could have been Logan... or even Yonas... but I was definitely present when this picture was taken...
This awesome picture I took... is in a calendar!  Yeah.  How cool is that?  And you can order that calendar from our great friends the Hurleys on their new site: Amharic Blessings.  All of the items are made in Ethiopia and all of the proceeds support two awesome organizations currently working in Ethiopia (including Bring Love In). We're ordering the music DVD for Willow for Christmas and the blue scarf for me, because it's awesome.  

Side Note: The Hurleys happen to have the most beautiful boy, Samuel, who is also from Harar and is exactly Willow's age.  Samuel and Willow would have ridden in the van together from Harar to Addis Ababa- right past the scene in this picture.  

So please check out Amharic Blessings!  

Here are a few other sites I've enjoyed (and might be orderings some Christmas gifts from) this year...
We decided last month, after our three month home study update, that it might be interesting to write a little bit about how we honestly felt during our first three months home.  

For us, each month was completely different and we don't want to forget how it all played out.  We separately wrote down our thoughts and didn't read what the other wrote until we were finished so that our memories and feelings would truly be our own.  This is what we wrote...

Month One - WHAT HAVE WE DONE?  August 2012

Logan:  I don't really know how to summarize this, but here goes. For over two years we waited for our baby girl. Near the middle of July, we got clearance to finally go pick her up and bring her home. It was a good time for us. There was so much rejoicing in our house among friends and family. I'll never forget those days. It was sometime shortly after reading the US Embassy's approval email that I came to the realization of what it all meant. We were bringing home a little 9-month-old baby. That's a bit intimidating in itself. Plus, I had been out of baby-mode for a few years, given our son River is now 4-and-a-half years old. The reality of it all came crashing in on us. For two years I had been focused on getting her home. Nothing more.

In-country, Willow was really no trouble at all – she napped well, ate well, and slept peacefully throughout each night. My previous thoughts about the reality of it all slowly diminished. I started giving myself a hard time, laughing internally saying: Logan, what were you so worried about...

Flash forward to the homecoming. Somewhere, at some point, something happened. We took our baby away from the mountains of Central Ethiopia, to Frankfurt, Germany, then thousands of miles across the Atlantic, and finally home. Indeed, something happened. Baby got fussy.

It seemed for the entirety of August, we just couldn't do anything right. Willow was away from everything she ever knew. Nothing was familiar to her. The sleeping baby from Ethiopia seemed more like an angry insomniac. I had taken her young age for granted – thinking that at only 9-months she wouldn't care much about these changes. I was wrong. And I started to feel intimidated yet again.

Brandy:  Nothing prepared me for the first month home.  None of the seminars, books, inspirational pep-talks from other moms... nothing prepared me.  One day I was crying on the floor of her bedroom begging God to just please let her come home and one month later I was crying on her bedroom floor because she just won't. stop. crying.  And I'm pretty sure that she hates me.  And I'm wondering if we've made a terrible mistake.  And I don't think that life will ever be normal again.  

Month Two- FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT  September 2012

Logan: The rough nights of August carried over into September. Though, by this point, we had become pros, had ironed-out the tedious details of our daily routine. We took shifts - every other night was mine to console a sleepless Willow. It became a science to keep our ancient wood floors from creaking with every step. I realized near the end of September that these things take time. Willow was in a new world – everything was foreign. I stopped getting so frustrated and started to have more patience with her when she would become upset. It was at this point that the survival-mode that ruled our lives in August suddenly vanished. I started to feel like a dad to this little baby.

Brandy:  This month we took control.  We set boundaries.  We limited visitors and trips out of the house.  I talked to many, many other moms who had brought home screaming, restless, scared babies from other countries.  She started taking a pacifier.  She started taking naps in the swing.  She actually slept through the night.  But still every little thing- every conversation, every bedtime, every trip to the store- was more complicated, more stressful, more emotionally loaded than ever before.  But we were surviving.
Month Three- A NEW NORMAL  October 2012

LoganAs many of you know, October flew by. I only had time to watch The Great Pumpkin twice. Needless to say, Brandy and I were extremely busy. We started doing more, venturing out, living our lives with our children. Willow became so much more comfortable around us, our families, friends, and her entire environment. She slept better and had shed the tense shell she surrounded herself with in those first weeks home.

I can't stress enough how life-changing adoption has been for me and Brandy – not just as parents, but as people. It's been amazing to watch River transform into a wonderful older brother – playing with his little sister, kissing her cheeks, speaking to her in humorous, playful voices. Sure, there have been rough days. But in the end, it's a blessing. We are truly blessed to be a part of this little girl's life, to watch her grow. 

Willow's great-aunt told us in person and through video that she wants Willow to learn – that is, after all, what her Ethiopian name “Temar” means – to be a student, to learn. 

And, fulfilling that promise, by our girl's side, we will learn.

Brandy: We weren't scared of her anymore.  We started to realize that after all she had been through, she was really going to be OKAY.  She started to smile at us, run to us, play with us, snuggle with us like a mommy and daddy.    I stopped thinking of her as a fragile responsibility and started to think of her as my other kid.  My daughter.  And at some invisible moment in time we became a family. 
For a $25 donation to our friend David's van in Ethiopia, you can get this awesome t-shirt, but it's only for today (Sunday)!  Shirts will be delivered in time for Christmas.  Update: We're leaving the shirt up through Monday.  

Join the campaign here:  I Drive Ethiopia 

To read more about our experience with David, and why we really hope he's able to purchase a van: Read Here 
What you need to know:

  • `HIV is considered a chronic but manageable disease with proper treatment.
    `Children who receive treatment are expected to live a normal lifespan.

  • `HIV has never been transmitted in normal family living conditions.

  • `You NEVER have to fear contracting HIV through casual contact with an HIV+ person.

  • `HIV is spread in three main ways: sexual contact, IV drug use through the sharing of dirty needles, mother to infant (pregnancy, birth or breast feeding.)

  • `All around the world orphans are overlooked for adoption because of their HIV+ status.

  • `Medications called ARVs can mean the difference between life and death.

  • `The combination of three or more ARVs is called HAART. (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy)

  • `With medications HIV can be effectively managed to the point that the virus is undetectable in laboratory tests.

  • `There is a term for the miraculous transformation HIV+ people undergo when they begin receiving the medications they need.   The Lazarus Effect is a term commonly used to describe people who were once on the brink of death who have been restored again to health through medication.

For more information on World AIDS Day:

For more information on HIV+ Adoption:

For photo listings of HIV+ Orphans: